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References 4

2. (continued)  Biological changes: Research papers and documents

Summary for Policymakers, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Report of Working Group II, IPCC, Geneva (February 2001)

This is the official record of a world-wide study of phenology and other scientific documentation of climate effects on human, geological, and natural processes. The main report was written by 183 lead authors, 243 contributing authors, 440 reviewers and 33 review editors. They focused on information from 44 regional studies of over 400 plants and animals, varying in length from 20 to 50 years. There are 16 other studies running as long as 150 years showing changes in physical processes.

Camille Parmesan and Gary Yohe. A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421, 37-42 (2 January 2003)

In this most recent of the meta-studies of plant and animal climate change science, the authors address a criticism that changes that are only correlated with temperature changes (not directly "proven") are not good enough scientifically. Parmesan and Yohe "apply diverse analyses to more than 1,700 species, and show that recent biological trends match climate change predictions." The study shows "significant range shifts averaging 6.1 km per decade towards the poles (or metres per decade upward), and significant mean advancement of spring events by 2.3 days per decade."

Terry L. Root, Jeff Price, Kimberly Hall, Stephen Schneider, Cynthia Rosenzweig and J. Alan Pounds also report in this issue of Nature, that their analysis points to the same strong signal of climate change.

They "gathered information on species and global warming from 143 studies... These analyses reveal a consistent temperature-related shift, or 'fingerprint', in species ranging from molluscs to mammals and from grasses to trees. Indeed, more than 80% of the species that show changes are shifting in the direction expected on the basis of known physiological constraints of species. Consequently, the balance of evidence from these studies strongly suggests that a significant impact of global warming is already discernible in animal and plant populations. "Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants." Nature 421, 57-60 (2003)


Chris D. Thomas, et al, a group of 19 ecologists, biologists and climate scientists, in "Extinction risk from climate change," Nature 427 8 Jan 2004, pg 145. "...we predict, on the basis of mid-range climate-warming scenarios for 2050, that 15-37% of species in our sample of regions and taxa will be 'committed to extinction'."   They studied the responses to current change and habitat limits of 1103 species in many habitats, and found that climate change is "...likely to be the greatest threat in many if not most regions." ( pg147) They went on to warn that warming will interact with other threats like habitat conversion, fragmentation, and invasive species.  Habiba Gitay, Avelino Suarez and Robert Watson wrote  "Climate Change and Biodiversity"  IPCC,  April 2002, as requested by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.  

This  is the best paper for those interested in specific effects on plants and animals.  The authors digest the IPCC findings:  "Of a total of 59 plants, 47 invertebrate species, 29 amphibians and reptiles, 388 birds and 10 mammal species, approximately 80% showed change in the biological parameter measured ... in the manner expected with global warming"  20% showed opposite change. (pg 11-12 )    Changes listed include:

--  Changes in the timing of biological events (phenology)

-- Changes in distribution and behavior

-- Increases in outbreaks of pests and disease

-- Changes in streamflow, floods, droughts, etc.

-- Boreal forests are expanding north at a rate equal to about 100 - 150 km per degree centigrade.

--  Coral reefs have been adversely affected   (pg 12-13

A review article appeared in Nature 394 page 793-795 (26 Oct 2001), by J. Penuelas and I. Felella "Responses to a Warming World," listing some of these studies.

Another review article:  "Ecological responses to recent climate change, by Gian-Reta Walther et al (including Parmesan, Beebee, Menzel, Hough-Guldberg)   Nature 416 pg 389 (28 Mar 2002)

"There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change, from polar terrestrial to tropical marine environments.   ...ecological responses ... are already clearly visible."  (abstract, pg 389)   "The evidence indicates that only 30 years of warming temperatures at the end of the twentieth century have affected the phenology of organisms, the range and distribution of species, and the composition and dynamics of communities." (394)

Yet another review article highlighted the spread of disease and increase of risk from vectors and carriers of diseases.  "Climate Warming and Disease Risks for Terrestrial and Marine Biota"  Science 296 pg 2158 (21 June 2002)   "Climate warming can increase pathogen development and survival rates, disease transmission, and host susceptibility."   (abstract)  "Vector borne human pathogens like malaria, African trypanosomaisis, Lyme disease, encephalitis, yellow  fever, plague and dengue have increased in incidence or geographic range in recent decades." (2160)

Also see the reference section of Climatehotmap by a coalition of environmental groups on web at

Jay R. Malcolm and Adam Markham reviewed how these changes affect biodiversity, "Global Warming and Terrestrial Biodiversity Decline." Published by World Wide Fund For Nature (September 2000).

Parmesan, Camille, Climate and species range. Nature 382 pg 765   (1996);

Parmesan, et al, Poleward shifts in geographic ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming.  Nature 399 pg 579  (1999

Dr Camille Parmesan's seminal work on Edith's checkerspot butterflies and the compilation of European lepidoptera studies, on which she worked with many other scientists.  Other information is available in a radio transcript:

"More information on "Parmesan I" on Web site of Earth and Sky radio program, available at

Myneni et al.  in Journal of Gephysical Research (16 Sept 2001)

Satellite and surface weather station data combine to show that the growing season is extending to 18 days longer in Eurasia and 12 days longer in North America, compared to 21 years ago. Also the changes in growth and duration of the season are tightly linked to yearly temperature.   (Note: reported by ENS News)

Annette Menzel and Peter Fabian, "Growing season extended in Europe"" Nature 397, page 659 (25 February 1999).

Trees in Europe leafing out earlier, as measured by an international network of botanical gardens. "We have analysed data from more than 30 years of observation in Europe, and found that spring events, such as leaf unfolding, have advanced by 6 days, whereas autumn events, such as leaf colouring, have been delayed by 4.8 days. This means that the average annual growing season has lengthened by 10.8 days since the early 1960s. These shifts can be attributed to changes in air temperature."

Sagarin, R. D., J. P. Barry, S. E. Gilman, and C. H. Baxter "Climate related changes in an intertidal community over short and long time scales." Ecological Monographs 69, pg 465. (1999)

The 60-year repeat study on a tide pool at Hopkins Marine Station, Monterey California.

M. Abu-Asab, P. Peterson, S. Shetler, S. Orli. "Earlier plant flowering in spring as a response to global warming in the Washington, DC, area" Biodiversity Conservation 10 pg 597 (2001).

Of 100 flowering plants with records of first bloom in the Washington DC area, 89 showed a significant earlier blooming time, up to 46 days, over a 29 year period. Average is 2.4 days.

R.S.R. Fitter and Fitter Science 296 pg 1687 (31 May 2002 )

In Britain, the flowering dates of 385 plants show advancement by average 4.5 days in the 1990's, compared to the period 1954-1990.  Spring flowering/insect pollinated species are most affected, and some plants are very, very early --up to 55 days.

Cannell, M.G.R., Palutikof, J.P. & Sparks, T.H. (eds) "Indicators of Climate Change in the UK." published by DETR, London (1999)

This is a listing of many ecological and meteorological records that are being monitored.

Humphrey Crick, et al., in Nature 388 pg 526 (1997)

Over 57 years the average date of first egg laid for 65 species advanced, and for the 20 most advanced species it averaged 8.8 days earlier. Only one species laid significantly later.

Peter O. Dunn and David W. Winkler,  Climate change has affected the breeding date of tree swallows throughout North America.  Proceedings of the Royal Society    pg 2487   (1999)

Raymond C. Smith, et al "Marine Ecosystem Sensitivity to Climate Change" BioScience Vol. 49(5), pg 393 (1999)

"Historical observations and paleoecological records reveal ecological transitions in the Antarctic Peninsula region. This century's rapid climate warming is occurring concurrently with a shift in the population size and distribution of penguin species. Analyses of paleoclimate records show that the region has moved from a relatively cold regime, between about 2700 and 100 years before present (B.P.), to a relatively warm regime during the present century. Air temperature records from the last half century show a dramatic warming trend, confirming the rapidity of change in this area." Co-authors include Fraser, Domack and Leventer.

  A confirming study on Emperor penguins in Terre Adelie showed that reduced sea ice due to abnormal warm periods, especially in the late 1970s, caused a 50% decline in the birds. Barbraud & Weimerskirch, Nature 411 pg 183 (10 May 2001)

Also see J.P. Croxhall et al  Environmental Change and Antarctic Seabird Populations.  Science 297 pg 1510-14  in "Trouble in Polar Paradise" section of News and Reviews, Science 297 (30 August 2002).

Rosa Meehan, Venon Byrd, George Divoky and John Piatt,  Implications of Climate Change for Alaska's Seabirds.  October 1998.  Section on Divoky's Cooper Island study is on page 9-10.  Available at

Also see a 1998 paper by Ainley and Divoky in Pacific Seabirds  25(1) 20;   and article by Darcy Frey "George Divoky's Planet" The New York Times Magazine, January 6, 2002 pg 24-33+

Kevin Krajick, "Developments in Arctic climate changes affecting ecosystems."  Science 291 pg 424 (19 January 2001).  Note: Review article, not original research

Arctic food web is based on zooplankton and algae under the ice -- as it thins and decreases, this could limit food production. Increasing open water and receding ice edge has disrupted nesting, denning, etc., for polar bears, guillemots, murres, other seabirds, harp seals, and Peary caribou. Sea level changes are also occurring.

EPA, Washington DC,  "Climate Change, Wildlife, and Wetlands" CD and Video educational package.   (Undated;  2002?)  for info on Chesapeake Bay, Glacier National Park, Everglades and South Florida, and "What to Do" actions.

Alan Pounds, et al,  Nature 398, pg 611 (1999

The first study to show local extinctions due to climate change in the tropics, documented the demise of the golden toad and change in other amphibian ranges, as warming atmosphere raised the level of clouds, drying part of the Costa Rican cloud forest.

D. A. Clark, et al,  Proc of National Academy of Sciences  10.1073  28April 2003,  is the reference for the change in tree CO2 take up at La Selva, Costa Rica.  This study includes Charles Keeling's data of increased CO2 emissiions from the tropics during especially hot El Nino years 97-98.

William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute lead the team resurveying the 18 isolated rainforest plots in the Amazon.  "Pervasive alteration of tree communities in undisturbed Amazonian forests" in Nature 428, 11 March 2004 page 171. 

For more information on extinctions, see:
Niles Eldredge, “The Sixth Extinction,”
available at

Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, The Sixth
Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind
(New York: Anchor Books, 1996)

E. O. Wilson, The Future
of Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) information is found in “Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and
Vulnerability. Summary for Policymakers,” 6 Apr. 2007, at It summarizes and analyzes the data from most of
the studies listed above For all the details, read the
full IPCC reports at the same website and see the following book.

Thomas Lovejoy and Lee Hannah, eds, Climate Change and Biodiversity
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).

For details on migrations and climate pressures on species:
William E. Bradshaw and Christina M. Holzapfel, “Evolutionary
Response to Rapid Climate Change,” Science 312 (9
Jun. 2006)

See also Ronald Neilson et al., “Forecasting
Regional to Global Plant Migration in Response to Climate
Change,” Bioscience 55 (9 Sept. 2005).

Louis Pitelka and Plant Migration Workshop Group, “Plant Migration and
Climate Change,” American Scientist 85 (Sept.–Oct. 1997).

Marten Scheffer et al., “Catastrophic
Shifts in Ecosystems,” Nature 413 (11 Oct. 2001);

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
“Interlinkages between Biological Diversity and Climate
Change,” CBD Technical Series 10, Montreal, 2003.

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